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Welcome to JoyPowered Workplace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant, and I’m here with JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of “JoyPowered,” a workspace game changing book. Today’s topic is work from home technology. JoDee, you might remember in January, we did a podcast focused on growing trend of working remotely. And we got a lot of listener feedback, including people looking for advice on what kind of technology would make it easier for them to be working from home, but what other resources are available to make working from home affordable, easy, and effective? Remember that JoDee?
Yes, we have a lot of response from that. And just as a reminder to our listeners, some of the advantages were increased productivity, greater employee satisfaction, 24-7 agility, not that we’re suggesting that you need to be available 24-7, but that people found they were more open to being more available in return for the opportunity to be more flexible.
You’re right. We also talked about things that the employer would be interested in like saving on real estate, not having to, you know, provide technology inside of some type of a office building, coffees, water, parking, all those expenses that a business could actually take off their books if they had a portion of their population working from home.
Right. I find it interesting that many employers I think are still a bit nervous about incorporating this concept of letting people work from home because, they’re afraid they’ll lose control or that employees will be less productive. But most people we’ve heard from have said they’re actually more productive working from home, that they have less distractions of other employees in the office, of taking longer lunches… you think that the laundry or the dog might be distracting to you, but they seem to be much less distracting than things going on in the office.
You know, if you’re going to make that business case to your employer about “I want an opportunity to work from home, if not full time, part time,” then you really want to think about how do you make it easy on them to say yes, and I think one of those ways is to make sure that you’ve explored and investigated the type of technology that’s out there.
We’ve invited someone very knowledgeable on this topic to join us today. Bob Knauf, a senior product manager at Polycom. Bob is joining us from his home office in Southwest Florida. Hello, Bob.
Hello, Susan and JoDee!
So Bob, tell us about Polycom. You know how many employees do you have? How many work from home and you know you yourself? What do you think works and
Sure, Polycom has been around for about 26 years. Most people know is from that iconic starfish speakerphone that you see in so many different conference rooms. You see it all over different TV shows and movies and so forth. And that’s how we got our start with that amazingly great audio. We progressed over time to data conferencing, and then we moved into video conferencing. And we’ve been making video conferencing equipment to help people communicate better and at a great distance for the past 12 to 13 years. We have all cool technology built into let people work naturally from the corporate environment, schools, and of course working from home.
Give us some specifics. What kind of technology, you know, audio and visual. What are some of the capabilities that are out there today that our listeners would be interested in?
Well, I think a lot of folks would be interested in the audio technology for starters, I mean, how many times have you been in a call where there’s noise happening in the background. It could be anything from babies crying to the dogs barking. And that noise can bleed through into the conference. A lot of people also in today’s world like to… they like to work from coffee shops and other open workspace environments. And again, all that noise, historically, would just bleed right into the call, stopping productivity. And really, someone’s going have to say, hey, Bob, can you please mute your end because it’s driving the rest of us nuts. And we’re Polycom technology we’ve put in things like technology called noise block, and acoustic fence technology. It actually will listen to your environment using different microphones on the desktops. A desktop phone will utilize microphones that you may not be using, that will listen to the environment and then block out all that background noise. So you don’t hear all that extraneous noise coming through into the conference.
And Bob, when I hear you say the word video conferencing equipment, it makes me think ‘expensive.’ Is this kind of equipment really feasible for individuals, whether it’s just this audio blocker or video conferencing technology?
That’s what so cool about today’s world just in general, there’s so much great video technology, everything from FaceTime running on your iOS device or Skype to if you start looking at the Polycom solutions. Polycom has applications that will run on your iPad, your iPhone, to your PC. And of course, we graduate very quickly up to the conference room and beyond. But the great thing about Polycom solutions is that we have an audio technology built into all of our different solutions. So even from the lowest price solutions, like desktop software, will be able to block out that noise and give users a really great experience during a video call back to their home base.
Nice. So is this something that just an individual can purchase? Or does the company need to purchase it for everyone to have access to?
Certainly we are involved with individuals that are looking for the best experience possible. But our solutions really shine, you know, in an organization where they might have many people deployed remotely, for example. That way, if you’ve got 100 employees or 100, people, volunteers, whoever it might be within your organization, you want them all to be able to connect easily and with the highest quality possible, that’s where our solutions really will work beautifully together because we have infrastructure equipment that will allow IT administrators to really manage the entire network so people don’t… they’re not going, what I would say going rogue and taking an enormous amount of bandwidth for everyone on their calls. It’s like how an organization today may not allow employees to go to certain websites with Netflix and start streaming video and just thinking of gobs of bandwidth during the middle of the workday, we can do that as well with our solutions, right? We can allow the administrators of a network in the entire organiation to manage, not only employees in the office, but also from their home.
That’s great. You know, it’s interesting. We know that many, many people out there want to work from home. You know, statistics are very about how many people in the US are actually doing it. But we know there’s more than who want to do you have advice for individuals who want to work from home? What could they include in their business case, to their management to maybe get it done, maybe from a technology standpoint?
Absolutely just as an example, there’s a lot of companies out there that have really great work from home policies, and you can search out those companies. There’s great websites out there like remote.co and I think there’s a few other ones. You can actually search out companies that are specifically hiring work from home jobs. But there’s larger organizations, take Polycom for example, we have over 3000 employees and over 50% of our employees work from home. And that is a really large numbers, if you think about that ratio, 50% of our employees work from home, and we are able to be successful, one, because companies have to trust in their employess. But if you’ve been at an organization, and you want to have a more flexible work environment, maybe you don’t want to work five days from home, maybe you just want to work a few days from home. And honestly, this is the way to start. This is the way I know a lot of people at Polycom have done it in the past to have a better work life balance. They’ll start working from home one day a week and then gradually working two days a week showing and proving to their boss into the upper management that, you know what, this does work! So my advice is start small. You know, if you’re working in Alaska, for example, don’t go to your boss one day and say, Hey, I’m interested in moving to Southwest Florida and working full time out of there, maybe start working from home a couple of days a week, couple of days a month showing that you can still be as productive from home as if you were just sitting right in the office. Everyone that is in the right mind wants people, their employees to have a better work life balance. And I have seen huge success at Polycom and other organizations that we work with that they have tremendous work from home policies, and it’s just keep growing and growing and growing and growing.
That makes sense.
Bob, for some companies, it’s important for them to know that their employees are logged on or that they’re available for phone calls, or it’s actually tracking their usage on the phone or on the screen, is that part of what you offer as well?
Well, Polycom directly, we have, again, the infrastructure equipment if they’re heavily involved with audio and video technology, they’ll have what we call virtual meeting rooms, for example. So all of my meetings that I attend are done through these virtual meeting rooms, it’s basically a cloud service. And my boss wants to know, how many meetings did Bob have? Did he call himself this past month, he could actually pull down those statistics. However, we don’t do that. But if if it was a newer organization that was looking to build the trust, see how this is working, they do have tools at their fingertips. And again, it doesn’t have to necessarily be 100% about Polycom here, that it’s just if you’re fully invested in our audio video solutions, but you wanted to just get started out you can do something like say Microsoft Office 365 that will give administrators the ability to dish out video and audio numbers, to home office users, and they can track the usage on what people are doing. Of course, from an IT perspective, you have like things like virtual private networks, or VPNs, where IT could actually look and say, oh, Bob was on the VPN for 32 hours this past week. That means he was probably doing work for the organization, little do they know I was probably on Yahoo or CNN, but we’ll let them believe that I was actually doing doing the work. So there’s definitely software out there to let you do that, there’s also virtual time clocks. So you could, if an organization was looking to have people punch in basically, you can also do that virtually. And you could do that through your telephone. You could also do that learn from logging on to a terminal or your pc or your iPad. And an organization can actually see that “Oh, you worked eight and a half hours a day, you work seven hours a day you logged in an 8am you logged out at 4pm, whatever it might be. So there’s a ton of resources and tools out there that, by the way, will not break the bank. All these tools I’m talking about are available as a cloud services. So an organization that’s looking to do work from home, they don’t have to put up a bunch of capital in order to get started and let their employees work from home.
That’s great. So Polycom, you know, it sounds like really hasn’t figured out not only for their employee population, but really to support clients and their needs to help promote working from home. Do you consult with businesses to really help them figure out the whole picture even with like time monitoring and things like that, to help them access some of these other tools that are available?
Absolutely. So, in our typical engagment with a new customer. We have to go in and learn all about their business. So our system engineers and our account managers will go in and spend time with an organization, they’ll spend time with the employees to see how people work. Because the one thing that we have learned in our 26 year history is that you cannot change how people work too dramatically if you want them to use your technology. If they feel uncomfortable using your technology, anything from just placing a simple phone call to being on a video call, if it makes them feel uncomfortable, if they just don’t understand how to do it, they won’t use the technology and ultimately, the pilot program or wherever might be will be unsuccessful. So we always like to get as much information upfront for an organization, especially if they’re looking to do work from home, because there are so many different ways to connect from the home back to the home base and see what the needs are, because every organization will have different needs. And why are they wanting to let their employees work remotely?
That makes sense. Now I know Polycom is a big user of work from home, but what other large companies are you familiar with that have done it really good and aggressive way?
We’ve seen different companies like Sabre Travel, for example, corporate travel agencies, they no longer have one central office. Now you’ll see organizations, take Polycom, for example, we use a travel site called Carlson Wagonlit. They’re a large national travel chain, and they don’t actually just have one office. They have travel agents all over the United States working from home. Polycom has dedicated employees from their organization that if we call the 800 number, we’re actually just being forwarded to someone in Colorado, someone in Massachusetts, but they’re all working from home. So we’re seeing a big trend there. We’re also seeing a trend from anyone in customer service from Amazon, to there’s so many organizations out there that will let you work from home because it’s so easy. If you think about your typical job that might be customers service, they’re spending 90% of their day just sitting at a phone. Why do they have to go into an office where the organization spending money on the space, the HVAC, the water in the fridge, whatever it might be. Just let them work from home. And they’ll be equally as successful because, again, they’re logged in just as if they’re logged in sitting at the desk in that highly priced office.
Nice. Bob, at Purple Ink, we do leadership training, and typically that is live training where we’re in their offices or wherever works for them. But we’re getting more questions, just in the past couple of weeks I’ve had questions from clients about where they have one person who works in a remote location, or two people, and we’ve been able to work through those, but I had a question last week where everyone that they wanted to have in the class was going to be working somewhere from a remote location. What suggestions if any, do you have for that to offer effective training to employees when they’re not all in the same location?
So you have a couple different paths you could go for teaching a class or even having a meeting from one to many, or one to one. First, you have to ask yourself as the organizer, do I want to have full interaction? Meaning do I want to have people be able to stop me and ask the question? Or do I feel more comfortable just presenting the material and then have people ask me questions at the end? And the third way is do I want people to be able to be interactive throughout the entire session, but I want them to be able to type the questions to me versus being you know, on a screen and being fully interactive. So the technology involved there could be a little different if you want to have full interaction, which I prefer, that way I can ask questions, stop, see everyone, and most importantly, everyone else on the call sees everyone else. So you know that Kathy from Minneapolis is on the call, oh, my friend Tom from Colorado is on the call. It really does make you feel better as a work from home employee to see your other work from home employees. So in that case, what you would do is you have a video technology like Polycom, for example, at your home office. And it could be something as simple as our iPad app that you can download, or it could be a desktop software. If it’s an office you can have one of our conference room systems, and you go to a video cloud service. And your organization’s not making the investment themselves on the infrastructure here to bridge all those participants together from an audio video perspective, there’s great providers out there, like Zoom conferencing, Blue Jeans, and there’s many many others that can offer basically video bridging service or cloud service that will let audio and video participants all join together as one.
Isn’t that great?
That’s the best way I like to do it. Now if you don’t want to do full interaction, you can of course, go to web conferencing and everyone is familiar, I believe at this point with some sort of web conference like WebEx or many others that are out there PGI, etc. They will allow a presenter to sit there and go through slides, they will be talking on their audio device, people could easily just type in questions as they see it. Most of these web conferencing services as well have some type of video portion to it. But it does give the presenter a bit more flexibility on when they want to accept the questions versus being interrupted. But again, it’s definitely not the same feeling on a webconference as it is on a true multi way video conference.
Right. Listen, thank you so much, Bob, for joining us today. We really feel like it’s been insightful and helpful to us and anything else that you want to make sure we knew before we let you go?
I’ll go back to the first question you asked about how to allow your boss to allow you to work from home. And it’s just – take your time, don’t go for everything at once, if you live in Alaska, and you want to get out of the cold, want to move to Florida. Don’t try to move to Florida in one fell swoop, you know, start working from home. Just say “hey, I’m trying to work from home on Thursdays or on Fridays,” whatever it might be for you. And then just keep building that up and show you’re equally as good outside the office as you are inside the office. My number one piece of advice for work from all people always be available during business hours. So if you happen to go to the doctor with your kids or for yourself or something like that, or another event that your family might be having at a school, make sure your cell phone is there and ready and able to take those calls or at least be able to answer email quickly, just so it shows that you’re able to be equally as productive outside the office as inside the office.
That’s great advice on being responsive, really smart. Gosh, Bob, thank you so very much. We wish you the best. And thank you so much for calling in.
Alright, thank you! Have a great day guys.
So JoDee, do we have any listener email that we want to address this week?
We do. We have a listener from Chicago. Her name is Edith said “JoDee and Susan, I work for a global company and I’m on a team with people all over the US. My boss pulls all of us together frequently to talk through large and small issues for hours at a time. It drives me nuts. We don’t make any decisions on these calls and feel like we are being held hostage as he talks out loud. He’s a nice guy, but I want my time back to get my job done. What suggestions do you have?”
Well, Edith, first of all hurray, you got a nice boss, right? It’s all good for you. But I can understand that you feel like you’re not being able to be productive and the team isn’t being productive if you spend lots of lots of time consistently on the phone and not reaching decisions or, or making action plans, what I would do is I would schedule time with my boss and I would sit down and I’d start with positive, I’d say, you know, I love the fact that you are very collaborative, and that we as a team, you know, we really do know the issues that are that the whole team is facing, you know, large and small. But I do have a suggestion, I do think that we may want to change the format of our meetings, and really think about what are the two or three big issues that we need to face as a team and then really get some takeaway assignments. And that ought to be, in my opinion, a new format for us moving forward so that we actually get things done. What about you, JoDee? Have you ever experienced this? And any advice that you might have for Edith?
I haven’t experienced it to a significant amount, but I do think it’s some people styles to talk through decisions out loud, or want to include lots of different people in their decisions. And so I love Susan’s idea of just talking to him about that one on one. Maybe another idea in that one on one meeting would be to suggest that he talked about certain issues with smaller groups of people. Or maybe there are some ideas that you and he can work through just the two of you, but on other topics, he might connect with one or two other people to have those discussions so that not everyone’s time is wasted talking through every issue.
I like that, I like Edith saying, you know what, let me take on some of those small issues for you. What can I do to help you and us being more productive team?
Right. And I think he’ll appreciate that, Edith. If you’re thinking about the productivity, not just of yourself, but for the whole team as well, while still enabling him to work in his style of talking through issues.
Great well, Edith, good luck. Let us know how it goes. Right. Okay. So you know, next on our format is in the news. And JoDee, I don’t know if this is something that you’ve always done, but something that I’ve always done, when I was screening candidates, I would ask them, so tell me about your salary history, or I’d ask, you know, ask them so where are you from a salary standpoint, because I wanted to make sure that the job we were offering, you know, would be a match for them, right. But I will tell you that it’s maybe something that we want to start reconsidering that approach. In Massachusetts, they recently passed a pay equity legislation that goes into effect in 2018. And it actually bars employers from asking candidates about their salary history. And then what we’re finding is it’s popping up in other places as well, this type of legislation. The state of New Jersey and the cities of New York and Pittsburgh and Washington, DC have passed local ordinances that make it illegal for a business to ask. And I thought about it, you know, why is that? Why are they feeling like that’s an off limits question? It starts to make sense when you realize that on the average, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee report released back in April of 2016 says, women earn on the average 79% of what men earn. And so if an employer is asking a woman, for example, your salary history, the launch point, the starting point is probably 20% or 21%, lower than what a man’s is, and that employer then almost has a path of offering a lower salary. So I started to think it made sense. What do you think JoDee?
Yeah, I agree. I admittedly I’m guilty of asking the question about salary history, but I think this will force companies to do a better job of determining market value of their jobs, and then figure out if people are the right fit for that job and have the right skill sets and experiences to fulfill it, as opposed to just offering them slightly more than what they made before, which I think has been the rule of thumb for a lot of clients.
I think that’s right. I think employers want to figure out how do they get the best talent at the lowest price and that, you know, nothing wrong with that. That’s capitalism, which is a good thing. But when there’s a pattern or practice of discrimination, as has been, you know, proven over and over again, women earning less than men on the average for some of our work, this could be a real game changer. This really divorces what a person has earned in the past what they’re going to earn in the future. And instead, you know, what is that job worth? And if a person meets the skills, let’s pony up and let’s pay it to them.
Well good. Well, listen, thank you so much, everyone for listening today. If you’ve missed any of our podcasts, you can go back to iTunes and download our complete series of our podcast by searching on JoyPowered. You can also look for us on Twitter @JoyPowered. Please keep sending your questions in and please tune in next time as we continue to explore HR issues.